Pumpkin Sloppy Joes

I love Fall baking. Now that Fall squash is everywhere and the cold is arriving, it is finally that wonderful time when we can fill our families tummies with lots of healthy vegetables that they don’t get all year long.
I have not yet had the chance to cook my own pumpkin, purée it and freeze it but that is next on my list. I do cut up my own pumpkin for stews which are frequent this time of year for us. Pumpkin is cut up and cooked in every one during the cold months in my house.
But the following recipe is for all year long! You can use your own frozen pumpkin or just canned pumpkin. I try to buy a few extra cans of Trader Joes Organic Pumpkin and keep them on hand. I first found this recipe in the Taste of Home Halloween cookbook and modified it a little. It is the only recipe I use to make sloppy joes and even a pumpkin-hater in my house loves it because he couldn’t tell it has pumpkin in it.

Pumpkin Sloppy Joes
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 cup canned or puréed pumpkin
3/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon mustard
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

8 hamburger buns

Cook and drain ground beef. Return to pan and add garlic and onion and cook until tender. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer for about 10 minutes. Spoon onto buns.

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Easy Corn Burritos

A lot of local food places in Southern California have a menu item called Corn Burritos. I first heard of them served at one of the greatest restaurants we have ever known of, Mike’s Fiesta Restaurant in Ventura. A couple of guys, originally from the Middle East, opened this wonderful Mexican food restaurant years ago and worked so hard, making the best food and gaining tons of loyal customers. They recently closed their doors and their customers miss them a lot.
A very popular menu item was the Corn Burrito Surprise, consisting of 13 corn burritos in a sunshine pattern with finely shredded cheese topping the middle.
The Montalvo Little League snack bar was very well known for it’s homemade corn burritos. Having worked in the snack bar more times than I wanted to, I witnessed some of the technique, all but the assembly.
We don’t eat out much at all but where we have looked, we have not found corn burritos in the Seattle area. Therefore, there has been over a year with no corn burritos!
So, in a moment of – “We have no meat in the fridge and people in the house insist on meat, OR something very exciting”, I had the brilliant idea to do something I have never done before – make corn burritos!
I always have a tall package of Guerrero corn tortillas in the fridge for tacos and huevos rancheros and I had bought a few cans of Trader Joes Salsa Style Refried Beans recently just for quick meals when I don’t feel like making beans from scratch. Current events in my life have to allow for that.
So I lightly fried a bunch of the corn tortillas in sunflower oil and drained them in paper towels. I opened 2 cans of the TJ’s Refried Beans and spooned a little beans in each tortillas and rolled it up, securing with a toothpick. Then I fried them in my big cast iron pan with a bunch of sunflower oil mixed with a little bacon grease. After golden brown, I removed toothpicks and placed on a round pan. I grated some cheddar on the small grate and topped the middle of the pan extending out.
Needless to say, I received no complaints about dinner…..

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Our Favorite Dinner

For the almost 20 years my husband and I have been together, there is one dinner that we love more than any other meal. It’s not all that healthy and partly because we don’t bother to add a vegetable. The meat and potatoes is all we care about for this meal. But don’t forget the garlic bread!
We start with getting a good trip tip steak that is about 3 pounds and usually already trimmed. Soak it in beer for a while. Living in So Cal it was easier to find tri tip than it is here in the NW. We still find it about every few weeks and usually at Albertson’s.
The tri tip gets barbecued and dipped in Kikkoman Teriyaki Baste and Glaze with Honey and Pineapple, until the meat is cooked.
The baked potatoes go in the oven at about the same time as the BBQ gets turned on.
Meanwhile, back in the house, I mince about 10 cloves of fresh garlic. I stir it into an entire stick of softened butter, slice open a fresh loaf of French bread, and spread the garlic butter on the bread. The trick is to watch it constantly while under the broiler to perfectly toast the bread.
The other day we got home from the store and I realized I had forgotten the French bread! Not about to go back to the store, I decided to improvise and even temporarily change my garlic bread recipe for the night. I opened the loaf of white bread I had bought for sandwiches during the week and mixed a stick of softened butter with about 1/4 cup mayo and the 10 cloves of minced garlic. I then broiled the bread and it was really good. I will stick with no mayo though when I make it on French bread.
We always serve this dinner with A1 and sour cream. The best sour cream ever is Knudsen, but it is not sold in the NW. The next best I have found here is Tillamook.
So, not the healthiest dinner but it is probably one of the most comforting, happy dinners we ever make!

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Lunch-making Pictures

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Homemade Weekday Lunches

The never-ending, every evening responsibility of making lunches for the next day…. There really aren’t a lot of shortcuts available for this. But the rewards are so great and the time is worth it.
Currently I make lunches for myself, my husband and our 3 year old daughter. All 3 are very different.
I will start with my daughter. Her preschool has a rule (a good one for not-so-health conscious people) that each child’s lunch needs 2 fruit or vegetable servings each day. I’m also happy that they have parents bring lunches rather than providing it there. You never know what kind of junk is fed at some of those places. Most certainly a lot of GMO and foods containing HFCS. My daughter has been stuck on the same sandwich for months: a healthy wheat bread with sunflower seed butter (it’s also a no peanut school), and Trader Joes reduced sugar strawberry jam. I cut the sandwich into a large heart and a small heart and put in a BPA free sandwich container. Individual organic yogurts are great but to cut costs I started buying a large tub of organic plain yogurt and making it in BPA free cups with lids. I found it was too thin for her to easily eat so I started making it into yogurt cheese (Labneh) instead. I take a coffee filter and use a rubber band to attach it to the top of a cup. I pour yogurt into the filter, cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator. I put a few small frozen berries and a teaspoon of organic sugar in a small BPA free cup with lid and place in her lunch in the refrigerator with the rest until morning. In the morning I scoop the yogurt cheese out of the filter and mix well with the berries and sugar, breaking up the berries slightly. She eats almost all of it every day!
Her fruit and vegetable combinations vary all the time. She seems to like any of the following (in small BPA free cups with lids):
Thinly sliced organic cucumber
Thinly sliced organic gala apples
Fresh pineapple chunks
Fresh organic blueberries
Fresh organic sliced strawberries
Thinly sliced carrots
Organic orange sections
Pitted cherry halves
Sliced fresh steamed beets
Sliced apricots
Sliced avocado
Frozen organic corn or peas (they thaw perfectly by lunchtime)

Some days I will add a cup of organic black beans or leftover chopped spaghetti with cheese and she always gobbles those up.

My husband’s lunches are pretty basic. One sandwich, one organic gala apple, a small bag of roasted, shelled sunflower seeds, a bag of chips (not those prepackaged small bags, it really saves money to just bag them yourself), a slice of cheddar in between 2 stone-ground wheat crackers from Trader Joes, some type of homemade baked item I have made, and a non-HFCS soda (Pepsi or Mountain Dew Throwback).
I try to keep the sandwiches interesting. He hates wheat bread so I buy a good quality white or potato bread (I’m trying to get back to baking my own bread). The sandwich will usually be a nitrite-free lunch meat, turkey or ham, with mayo, mustard, chopped onion, pickles, lettuce and sliced cheddar. Other days it’s tuna, egg salad, chicken salad, or sliced chicken, all with most of the same toppings.
Lately I have been experimenting with juicing for myself. I have been bringing the smallest portion of leftovers from dinner and a couple of healthy snacks and have my juice throughout the rest of the day. Juicing combinations I have been using are a mixture of apple, orange, grapefruit, cucumber, carrots, celery, beet greens, tomato and so many others. I drink about 10-12 ounces of it a day.
Pictures will be added later today!

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Labneh Dip

One of my newest discoveries is Labneh, or also known as Yogurt Cheese. My Middle-Eastern friend (who also makes homemade yogurt) has been making this for years and it is a popular snack and even a spread for sandwiches and wraps. I never knew that you could strain the liquid out of yogurt and make a thick, creamy cheese. It’s a little fattening but it is the good fats that children especially need.
It’s tasty enough by itself but makes a perfect base for a creative dip plate. There is no limit to the chopped or sliced ingredients you can line it with or the dipping items.
Labneh Dip
4 cups organic plain yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
Line a strainer with triple-layer cheesecloth. In a separate bowl, stir together the yogurt with the salt. Pour into the strainer that has been set in a dish to catch the liquid, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for about 12 hours.
Remove from the refrigerator and carefully unmold to a plate.
Prepare topping ingredients such as:
1/2 cup finely chopped Roma tomatoes
10 or so garlic-stuffed green olives
Thinly sliced salami
Finely chopped sweet peppers
Finely chopped red bell pepper
Finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
Thinly sliced green onion

Decorate the outside of the yogurt cheese with the ingredients you like and drizzle the entire cheese portion with extra-virgin olive oil. Serve with crackers and/or vegetables.

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My Favorite Potato Salad Variation

There are so many possibilities with potato salad. The only one I really can’t tolerate anymore is prepackaged, store-bought. Once you have made it at home, you really can’t go back.
One of my favorites is Red, White and Bleu Potato Salad. The main ingredient that really stands out is Bleu cheese which adds a certain wonderful richness to it. There are people who don’t like Bleu cheese but I’m not one of them!
When I make a plain potato salad I usually use Italian Parsley and different types of onion. I will only use Best Foods, sometimes Kraft mayo and it’s best to not overdo it with mayo.
My very favorite variety contains ingredients that a relative came up with years ago and I have recreated it and reworked a couple of things.

Cilantro-Red Onion Potato Salad
3 pounds red or golden potatoes, cut into chunks
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 cup mayo or to taste
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

Boil potatoes until still somewhat firm but edges become soft, 15-20 minutes. Drain potatoes and run cold water over them for a minute or two. Meanwhile in a large bowl, mix all other ingredients. Pour potatoes into mixture and fold together with a rubber spatula until well combined. Refrigerate until serving.

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